European Union External Action

The Russian Federation and the European Union (EU)

The role of the Delegation involves reflecting upon political events, developments and trends within Russia, as well as between the EU and the Russian Federation, while at the same time supporting the EU-Russia political dialogue.

The Delegation thus monitors political life in the country, including issues relating to the areas of human rights, justice, freedom and security, and developments in Russia's foreign (and defence) policy.

In the current context, the Delegation aims at establishing understanding and common ground with Russia on the Ukrainian crisis. The current situation in Ukraine has hindered EU-Russia relations. The illegal annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine have seriously affected the bilateral political dialogue. As a result, some of the mechanisms of cooperation are temporarily frozen, and sanctions directed at promoting a change in Russia's actions in Ukraine have been adopted. However, Russia remains a natural partner for the EU and a strategic player combating the regional and global challenges.

Russia is the EU's largest neighbour, brought even closer by the EU’s 2004, 2007 and 2013 enlargements. Accordingly, Russia is a key player in the UN Security Council and, due to history, geographic proximity and cultural links, is one of the key players in the EU neighbourhood. Russia is also a major supplier of energy products to the EU. Russia is a large, dynamic market for EU goods and services, with considerable economic growth.

As members of the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe, the EU and Russia are committed to upholding and respecting the fundamental values and principles of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and the market economy. These values underpin the EU-Russia relationship.

The current legal basis for EU-Russia relations is the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) which came into force in 1997, initially for 10 years. Since 2007 it has been renewed annually. It established a political framework for regular consultation between the EU and Russia, based on the principles of respect for democracy and human rights, political and economic freedom, and commitment to international peace and security. Furthermore, the PCA is complemented by sectorial agreements covering a wide range of policy areas, including political dialogue, trade, science and technology, education, energy and environment, transport, and prevention of illegal activities.

International Cooperation

Modern day challenges can best be approached through a sense of joint responsibility and understanding. The EU works in close cooperation with international partners, including Russia. A broad range of foreign policy questions, including security, are best approached through a sense of mutual understanding and concern.

Both the EU and Russia have a long record of cooperation on issues of bilateral and international concern including climate change, drug and human trafficking, organised crime, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, the Middle East peace process, and protection of human rights.

Furthermore, the EU develops a range of informal operational contacts that allow for a detailed understanding of Russian priorities and policies on international issues, provide early warning of potential problems and support the coordination of policy planning.

Common spaces

Ongoing EU-Russia cooperation covers 4 policy areas — referred to as common spaces:

  • economy & the environment;
  • freedom, security & justice;
  • external security;
  • research & education, including cultural aspects.

Additional opportunities for EU-Russia dialogue include:

  • Permanent Partnership Councils (PPCs): allowing Ministers responsible for various policy areas to meet as often as necessary.
  • Parliamentary Cooperation Committee (PCC): facilitating meetings between the European Parliament and the Russian Parliament (State Duma).
  • Partnership for Modernisation: focusing on economic and judicial reform alongside support to civil society. The facility complements EU human rights initiatives such as the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) which provides support to victims of abuse, strengthens civil society and the rule of law, and seeks to ensure democratic election processes. It also fits well with successful regional cooperation across the areas of environment, transport, culture and health in the Northern Dimension Partnerships.

As well as providing a framework for political cooperation between the EU and Russia, the PCA also promotes the development of economic relations. The EU is Russia's main trading and investment partner, while Russia as the EU's fourth is also its largest oil, gas, uranium and coal exporter, important for EU energy needs. This economic inter-dependence of supply, demand, investment and knowledge has resulted in joint commitments to maintaining good economic relations with a specific focus on energy cooperation offering energy security and economic growth to both sides.

Trade between the two economies showed steep growth rates until mid-2008 when the trend was interrupted by the economic crisis and unilateral measures adopted by Russia, which had a negative impact on EU-Russia trade. Since 2010, mutual trade has resumed its growth, reaching record levels in 2012.

In 2012, Russia joined the WTO, further expanding opportunities for economic relations with the EU and other foreign partners. However, problems remain with the Russian implementation of WTO commitments, which has had an impact on further growth.

The EU is Russia's main trading and investment partner, while Russia is the EU's fourth. In 2014, EU exports to Russia totalled €103.3 billion, while EU imports from Russia amounted to €181.3 billion. The EU trade deficit with Russia was therefore €78 billion in 2014.

The EU is by far the largest investor in Russia. The total stock of foreign direct investment in Russia originating from the EU totalled €154.8 billion as of the end of 2013.

Following Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and its role in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the EU imposed restrictive measures, including targeted economic measures, against Russia. In turn, Russia imposed restrictions on the import of agricultural and food products from the EU.

Bilateral relations

Russia is the EU’s third biggest trade partner, with Russian supplies of oil and gas making up a large percentage of Russia’s exports to Europe. The EU and Russia have a strong trade relationship. The trade volume was around €285 billion in 2014. However, the economic downturn in Russia in 2015 and 2016 has significantly affected Russia's volume of trade with the EU and with the world.

The EU has been a strong supporter of Russia's WTO membership since the start of the process to the accession on 22 August 2012. Russia's WTO membership should be a major element to further the development of economic relations between the EU and Russia. It should also introduce better stability and predictability in Russia's trade policy, limiting the scope for introducing unilateral tariff hikes or other restrictions as has been the case in the past. The correct implementation of WTO commitments is key.

Since 1997, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement has been the general framework of EU-Russia political and economic relations. One of the main objectives of this agreement is the promotion of trade and investment as well as the development of harmonious economic relations between the EU and Russia.

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was supposed to be upgraded through the negotiation of a New EU-Russia Agreement, providing a comprehensive framework for bilateral relations. The New Agreement should build on WTO rules and include stable, predictable and balanced rules for bilateral trade and investment relations. Negotiations started in 2008, but they were stopped in 2010 because no progress could be made in the Trade and Investment part. In 2014, against the background of the crisis in Ukraine, negotiations were formally suspended.

Today with the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union between Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, and the difficulties for Russia to fulfil its WTO commitments, it is not clear how further progresses can be achieved in the Trade and Investment field and what should be done as regards the project of a New Agreement.

The importance of the EU-Russia energy cooperation

Russia is the largest oil, gas, uranium and coal exporter to the EU. Likewise, the EU by far the largest trade partner of the Russian Federation. Based on this mutual interdependency and common interest in the energy sector, the EU and Russia developed a close energy partnership and launched an EU-Russia Energy Dialogue in 2000.

The EU is ready to cooperate with Russia in further developing a number of basic market principles in the energy sector, such as: an energy efficiency and saving policy, investment facilitation and protection, the right of access to energy transport infrastructure, network operators’ independence from the natural monopoly producers, sector regulation, and reform of monopolies.

The Energy Dialogue remains one of the most important aspects of cooperation between Russia and the EU. Its current structure ensures the close involvement of EU Member States, the European energy industry and international financial institutions. Thematic working groups bring together more than 100 European and Russian experts from the private and academic sectors and the administrations to discuss investments, infrastructures, trade and energy efficiency issues and to prepare further proposals for the Energy Dialogue.

These experts have underlined the importance of working on the convergence of regulatory frameworks in the EU and Russia, on the continued development of an attractive, stable and predictable investment climate that allows an active role for foreign investors, on the oil and gas transportation infrastructure projects and the integration of electricity markets.

EU-Russia Energy Dialogue

The aim of the Dialogue is to develop a long-term energy partnership between the EU and Russia. The Dialogue is focused on oil and natural gas, energy efficiency, cooperation in the interconnection of the European Union and Russia’s electricity grids, trade and enhancing the safe use of nuclear materials.

Russia and the EU both seek to ensure stable energy markets, to secure reliable exports and imports at increased volumes, and recognise a pressing need to modernise the Russian energy sector. Both wish to see improved energy efficiency and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from energy production and use in their respective economies. The overall objective of the Energy Dialogue is to enhance the energy security of the European continent by binding Russia and the EU into a closer interrelationship in all issues of mutual concern in the energy sector.

Against this background, the EU-Russia Energy Dialogue has identified a number of common and complementary interests for which concrete actions for the short and medium-term are implemented.

These areas include:

  • Ensuring reliable energy supplies in the short and long-term future;
  • Increasing energy efficiency;
  • Securing long term investment;
  • Opening up energy markets;
  • Diversifying the range of imports and exports of energy products;
  • Enhancing the technological base of the energy sector of the economy;
  • Developing the legal basis for energy production and transport;
  • Ensuring the physical security of transport networks;
  • Alleviating the impacts of the economic and financial crisis on the energy sector.

The Dialogue also has an environmental aspect as it aims to reduce the impact energy infrastructure causes on the environment, to encourage the ongoing opening of energy markets, to facilitate the market penetration of more environmentally friendly technologies and energy resources, and to promote energy efficiency and energy saving.

The Early Warning Mechanism

The Early Warning Mechanism is one element of the EU-Russia Energy Dialogue. This Early Warning Mechanism constitutes an essential procedure whereby the parties inform each other of short- or long-term risks to the security of supply or demand. Contact persons on both sides have been designated and the Mechanism has already proven its effectiveness. The formal nature of the Mechanism, including its precise format, contents and organization are included in the Memorandum on the Early Warning Mechanism. 

The Dialogue supports policy reforms in the Russian energy sector

The Dialogue is conducted with a medium to long-term perspective. It is a dialogue between two parties who will benefit equally from its success.

For the EU, the long-term security of energy supplies is a major concern. It is important to agree on a set of realistic and mutually beneficial commitments with Russia that will facilitate EU-Russia energy cooperation and to identify concrete steps to rapidly improve the investment climate. For these reasons, the Dialogue supports policy reform in the Russian energy sector.

For Russia, it is important to attract investment to maintain and increase its oil and gas production, to rehabilitate and upgrade its energy infrastructure and to use knowledge and technology transfers as a means of enhancing economic growth. Variables in these processes are quality, the timing and implementation of policy reforms; the deregulation of monopolies; the freeing up of energy tariffs; access to networks; investment protection; and transit issues.

The Dialogue in practice

The European Commissioner for Energy leads the Dialogue on the EU side and the Energy Minister of the Russian Federation is his Russian counterpart.
The dialogue has established four working groups in the following key areas of mutual interest:

  • the Energy Markets and Strategies Group;
  • the Group on Electricity;
  • the Energy Efficiency and Innovations Group;
  • the Group on Nuclear Energy.

Projects

There are currently two grant projects implemented in the Kaliningrad Region in the area of energy efficiency:

• Energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions in Kaliningrad Oblast (EU contribution: 362759.71 EUR). The overall project objective is to enable partners in Kaliningrad – in collaboration with Nordic partners – to more effectively tackle climate change challenges through energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions. The project is focused on the improvement of governance capabilities as regards deployment of energy efficiency  and renewable energy sources  solutions, pilot actions demonstrating tangible and visible benefits to non-state actors and local authorities of energy solutions,  improvement of the energy management; 

• Introduction of Advanced European Practices on Energy Efficiency in Houses and Public Buildings in Baltic Sea Regions of the Russian Federation (EU contribution: 478000 EUR).  The project objectives are to strengthen stakeholders’ capability to achieve high energy efficiency standards, to prepare conditions for introduction and adapt to Russian specifics advanced European technical innovations in the area of energy efficiency raising, to develop cooperation between European and Russian institutions dealing with construction and maintenance of houses and public buildings, to increase effectiveness of management in the area of energy efficiency raising in houses and public buildings.

The environment is of tremendous significance both to the European Union and Russia. Given common land and sea borders, environmental problems can and should be tackled together.

Russia boasts huge areas undisturbed by man and holds over 20% of the Earth's water resources and forests. But while Russia is home to quite unique natural resources, it also suffers from environmental problems, some a legacy of the Soviet past, some brought about by more recent economic growth.

Milestones in cooperation

The European Union and Russia have been co-operating on environmental questions since 1995. Over the past years, the EU has provided support for numerous projects aimed at improving environmental standards in Russia.

Since 2001 the EU has been conducting bilateral cooperation on environmental issues, with the key points being the protection of the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources. Under a commonly adopted Roadmap, EU and Russia are working on adopting cleaner production policies, reducing the reliance on natural resources, coordinating water policy, and reducing pollution in inland water systems.

An instrument of cooperation is the EU-Russia Environment Dialogue, with working groups set up in the following areas:

  • climate change;
  • cleaner production;
  • biodiversity;
  • environmental impact assessment and the convergence of environmental policies;
  • water and marine issues.

 Examples of cooperation - projects

There are currently two projects implemented in the field of environment and climate change:

"Implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan" BASE-project (EU contribution 2,500,000.00 EUR). The overall objective of this project is to promote Baltic Sea protection from pollution of hazardous substances and nutrients, and to promote protection of biodiversity.  The aim is to enhance protection of biodiversity as well as the development of necessary management system. The activities will contribute to improved environmental monitoring and reporting to international fora. The project focuses on St. Petersburg City, Leningrad Region and Kaliningrad Region. Specific activities are planned to be carried out in Pskov, Novgorod and Karelia.

"Energy Efficiency Awareness Campaign as a way to Combat Climate Change" (EU contribution 484,545.00 EUR). The overall objective is to raise awareness and provide support to Russian green NGOs as non-state actors (NSA) in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast to enable them to participate more effectively in addressing energy efficiency and climate change issues. The aim is to design a general concept, identify major components and develop basic materials for the EE Awareness Campaign as a way to combat CC for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast and also to strengthen institutional capacity and increase technical capability of NGOs to be better prepared to play a key role in implementing a regional Awareness Campaign. It also aims to strengthen cooperation between local green NGOs and those in the EU, developing links, networking and partnerships

Importance of EU-Russia cooperation

The EU environmental policy can only be efficient with cooperation with Russia as only together can the two parties successfully combat the consequences of trans-boundary and global environmental degradation. Confronting the global challenges of climate change, the loss of biodiversity, deforestation, and air and water pollution requires real commitment and effective cooperation at an international level. The close partnership that has developed between the EU and Russia on a number of strategic ecological issues is essential for ensuring sustainable environmental security worldwide.

Educational cooperation between Russia and the EU is guided by the principles of the Bologna Process of the Council of Europe which seeks to improve the quality, transparency, comparability and competitiveness of educational systems.

This Europe-wide framework for higher education allows individuals from participating countries to move freely between higher education institutions, jobs, business sectors and countries, making the learning experience more adaptable to changing labour market demands.

There are numerous opportunities for Russian individuals and institutions to benefit from the EU-Russia educational cooperation. As well as opportunities to study in Europe, venues and activites accross Russia offer exposure to European issues. These include:

  • The European Studies Institute (ESI) at MGIMO
    Housed at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO), ESI typically offers a Master’s Degree in European Integration Studies.
  • EU Study Weeks
    Organised by the EU Delegation to the Russian Federation for Russian students all over the country, EU Study Weeks give 30-40 students from different faculties exposure to experts, academics and EU officials. They explore EU-Russia relations in depth through lectures and activities, with the emphasis on discovering new research areas, on developing links with future EU specialists, and on concrete examples of EU-Russia cooperation.

Official website: www.eu-studyweeks.ru

  • Education fairs
    Hosted by the EU Delegation to the Russian Federation and showcasing EU-related educational opportunities (including those above).
  • EU Information Centres
    Set up by the European Commission at universities in the EU and in a number of non-member countries to promote research and teaching on European issues and to provide general information about EU policies to the academic world and the general public. They receive access to Commission databases, documents and publications about the EU directly from Brussels as well as host activities encouraging discussion and debate. 

The EU is committed to the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms all over the world. The EU regards the full respect of human rights as vital to the long-term social and political stability of any country.

Supporting Russia’s transition to an open society based on the rule of law and the respect for human rights is central to EU-Russia relations. The EU is committed to promoting human rights in Russia in a sustained and constructive manner.

The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)

In many countries around the world, non-governmental actors are working with dedication and bravery, often in difficult conditions, to help ensure the effective protection of human rights and the advancement of democracy. Direct work with such organisations is a priority for the European Union.

The European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights was created by the European Parliament in 1994 to support both the activities of civil society working for human rights and democracy and the efforts of international organisations. It was renamed the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) in December 2006.

The EIDHR has the following aims:

  • To enhance respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms where they are most at risk and to provide support and solidarity to victims of repression and abuse;
  • To strengthen the role of civil society in promoting human rights and democratic reform, developing political participation and representation, and supporting conflict prevention;
  • To support the international framework for the protection of human rights , the rule of law and the promotion of democracy;
  • To build confidence in democratic electoral processes through the further development of electoral observation and assistance.

Since its launch in Russia in 1997, the EIDHR has supported over 330 projects.

What are EIDHR projects?

EIDHR projects are implemented by Russian and European non-governmental, non-profit-making organisations. The European Commission allocates between 100,000 EUR and  300,000 EUR to each project, selected within national calls for proposals, and up to 2 Mio. EUR to each project within regional/global calls for proposals. Usually the grant beneficiary must part-finance at least 5% of the project costs from its own funds or from a grant awarded by another donor. Projects have duration of between 12 and 36 months.

How EIDHR projects are selected?

National calls for proposals are being launched by the Delegation of the European Union to Russia once a year. They are announced and advertised on the Delegation’s website. Each time a call for proposals is issued, priority topics and areas of work are indicated. Any non-governmental organisations that want to carry out a project in these areas are invited to apply. The Delegation selects the applicants based on objective and transparent criteria, which are also published on its website.
Regional/global calls for proposals are being launched by the European Commission in Brussels.

Cooperation between the EU and the Russian Federation in the field of Justice, Freedom and Security is now a key component in the development of the strategic partnership. The EU is focused on making progress in the implementation of the roadmap for the EU-Russia Common Space of Freedom, Security and Justice. The Permanent Partnership Councils (PPCs) on Justice, Freedom and Security set priorities and monitor progress in its regular meetings.

Migration and asylum

The EU and Russia aim at further enhancing cooperation on migration and asylum. For this purpose, in 2011 they decided to establish a specific EU-Russia Migration Dialogue which brings together experts to discuss issues related to international protection, irregular migration, migration and development, and legal migration.

Border management

The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the EU (FRONTEX) has been cooperating on an operational basis with its Russian counterparts on the basis of a working arrangement established in 2006. This practical cooperation comprises risk analyses, training, and research and development related to border management, as well as possible joint operations under the aegis of FRONTEX.

The fight against organised crime

Significant steps have been taken in strengthening cooperation in the fight against organised crime:

The EU and Russia also aim at sign an agreement on the control of drug precursors which would strengthen administrative cooperation to prevent the diversion of drug precursors.

The fight against trafficking of human beings, money laundering and terrorist financing and cybercrime represent potential fields of strengthened cooperation between the EU and Russia. The EU and Russia hold regular consultations on counter-terrorism and anti-corruption activities.

Judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters

Informal talks have been held between the EU and Russia on judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters. Eurojust and Russia aim at further strengthening their cooperation.

Legal and institutional framework

The legal framework for EU-Russia science and technology (S&T) cooperation is set by the following documents:

Institutionally, S&T cooperation is coordinated by the Joint S&T Cooperation Committee (JSTC) and several EU-Russia thematic S&T working groups established under the Agreement on cooperation in science and technology (2000). All actions agreed by the working groups are set out in a roadmap for action, the latest version of which was approved in 2012.

Independent Experts Report on the Implementation of the EU-RU S&T Cooperation Agreement

EU Framework Programmes

One of the most established forms of EU-Russia S&T cooperation is the participation of Russian scientists in the EU's Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development, where Russia has traditionally been one of the most active and successful international cooperation partner countries. EU researchers, for their part, actively participate in Russia's research and development (R&D) programmes, such as Federal Targeted Programmes on R&D and the Russian 'mega-grants' programme to attract leading scientists to Russian universities and research institutes.

In 2007 a new cooperation mechanism of coordinated calls for co-funded research projects between the EU and Russia was introduced. To date, nine coordinated calls have been implemented with Russia in such areas as health; food, agriculture and biotechnology; ICT; energy; aeronautics; nanotechnologies; nuclear energy.

Starting from 2014, the EU's Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, is the main instrument of cooperation in the areas of research and innovation at the EU level. Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU's Research and Innovation programme ever, with nearly €80 billion of funding available for seven years (2014 to 2020). It aims to foster innovation through collaboration, bringing together researchers, innovators and industry from the European Union and beyond. The programme is open to everyone from everywhere, including from Russia.   

Horizon 2020 video - General overview

Horizon 2020 video - How to apply?

Horizon 2020 'Open to the World', an interview with Cristina Russo, Director of International Cooperation, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission

Global research infrastructures

Another key area of Russia-EU S&T cooperation involves the development of global research infrastructures, including the large-scale "mega-science" projects. Russia and the EU actively collaborate on a number of research infrastructure initiatives, for example the EU X-ray Free-Electron Laser (XFEL) and the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR); the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER); the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN); and others.

Russia and the EU also collaborate within the framework of the Group of Senior Officials (GSO) on global research infrastructures, composed of representatives from the G8+O5 countries.

Researchers' mobility

A number of important programmes are in place to facilitate researchers' mobility between EU and Russia. At the EU level, these are mainly the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (under the EU's Framework Programme) and Erasmus+ programme*. These initiatives serve as an important tool of Russia's integration into the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area.

* Since 2014, the previous TEMPUS and Erasmus Mundus programmes have become part of the integrated Erasmus+ programme.

EU-Russia Year of Science 2014

On 25 November 2014, a scientific conference in Brussels closed the bilateral EU-Russia Year of Science, exactly one year after its launch in Moscow on 25 November 2013. The purpose of the Year of Science was to showcase the multifaceted nature of cooperation between Europe and Russia in science, technology, higher education and innovation, to accentuate past achievements and point towards future collaboration opportunities for mutual benefit.

With more than 170 joint European-Russian events having taken place all over Europe and Russia throughout the year, the Year of Science put into focus the diversity of links in research, innovation and higher education between the EU, its Member States and the Russian Federation. These events have provided an opportunity for individual researchers, enterprises, laboratories, research and higher education institutions to present their scientific achievements, as well as submit their ideas for future projects to a broader public. As a result, many new contacts and long-term partnerships between European and Russian universities and research organisations have been established, laying a solid foundation for future cooperation.

 

Initially, the EU provided technical assistance to Russia in a great variety of spheres under the TACIS programme (1991-2006). During this period several successful projects were implemented and programmes such as Tempus (in the field of higher education cooperation) and Cross border Cooperation were launched.

The nature of EU-Russia cooperation changed following the end of TACIS.   For already nearly a decade, available EU-funding for cooperation with Russia has been largely channelled to support ongoing policy dialogues in the framework of EU-Russia common spaces and the partnership for modernisation. Cooperation in the field of higher education and academic exchanges, cross border cooperation and northern dimension has also continued, parallel to this.

The EU is also providing support to civil society in Russia via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and also supports policy dialogues via the Partnership instrument.

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